Good morning and welcome to Coffee with the Director. It is my intent to have an ongoing conversation about things that impact people living with a disability. As you are aware disabilities come in all shapes and sizes and impact everyone differently. So with that in mind I plan on covering many topics. This morning I want to discuss with you the upcoming budget address by Governor Quinn which is scheduled to take place on Weds. February 22, 2012. It will be broadcast on many mediums including live feed for those of you with access to the computer, radio and most likely TV. I will make sure as we get closer to Feb. 22 that you know how to access Governor Quinn's address.

So why you might ask should you listen. First and foremost you need to educate yourself on what is happening to your state, your services and the social safety net that for so many years has helped people in Illinois when things got tough. Knowledge is power and we need all the personal and political power we can muster. There are changes coming that will make a difference in your life and the lives of the people around you. So lets start each day just looking at issues in the news right now to enlarge our knowledge base about things happening in Illinois.

Lets talk for a moment about health care and health care funding. Below are excerpts from an article written by Chris Wetterich of the The State Journal-Register entitled "Concern Growing Over Unpaid Medicare, Medicaid Bills." I picked out three points to briefly discuss and review for significance.

Medicaid is a program jointly funded by the state and federal governments that provides a variety of health-care services, while Medicare is federal health insurance for people over 65 years of age and for certain younger people with disabilities. (I should note here that Medicare serves people who worked and are now disabled, those who do not have a long enough work history or who were never able to work and have disabilities are covered under Medicaid.)

State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office has amassed $715.7 million in unpaid Medicaid bills, according to Bradley Hahn, a Topinka spokesman, while an estimated $2.2 billion has not yet been sent over from state departments.

Quinn proposed to reduce those reimbursement rates by 6 percent. Providers indicated they would rather be paid late, which meant $1.5 billion of Medicaid bills transferred into the next budget year.

So for us what is significant about the three pieces of information above and why should we be concerned?

To start off with, Wetterich gives an easy definition of medicaid/medicare programs which we need to understand and how they are funded. Thanks Chris, not easily done given the complexity of these two programs.

As unpaid medicaid/medicare bills amass more and more providers stop serving people who use these programs, less services available means less choice and in some cases no choice. Medications that were once covered by these programs are restricted or done away with leading to changes in medications for people who might have struggled for a long time to find the right medication combination for the best outcomes. Longer waits to get medication or see a doctor and the list goes on…

Quinn's proposal to reduce reimbursement again further restricts choice and will cause more providers to stop seeing medicaid patients. Which of course is serious stuff for people with disabilities who are trying to live independently and stay as well as they can. Living independently in the community is about one third the cost of living in a nursing home or institution which is no life at all.

Illinois already has one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the United States when it comes to reimbursing hospitals, doctors and other medical suppliers of medical services. In addition continually pushing bills back into the next fiscal year (which for the State runs July1 – June 30) only makes the problem grow larger…

So when you listen to the Governor on Feb 22, listen for issues related to Medicare/Medicaid… More tomorrow!

Our Fiscal ChallengeIllinois faces a budget shortf…

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